More than 850 Lehigh University students have studied abroad since 2008 through Lehigh’s partnership with IES Abroad, which offers more than 140 study abroad programs in 30 locations around the world

Sophie Marino ‘25 was excited to study abroad, but wasn’t sure how well those studies would align with her marketing major. She had no idea she’d be getting hands-on experience learning how to manage and market luxury brands in one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Marino is spending this semester in Milan, the home of such Italian brands as Prada, Valentino, and Versace. She has studied marketing and brand management at multiple Dolce & Gabbana stores, and analyzed the works of Giorgio Armani at his famous Armani/Silos exhibition spaces.

“Fashion is so important here, and I’m learning things here I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else,” said Marino, 20, a Lehigh University junior. “This study abroad experience has exceeded my expectations in every way. I love everything about it.”

Marino is one of the more than 850 Lehigh students who have studied abroad since 2008 through Lehigh’s partnership with IES Abroad, which offers more than 140 study abroad programs in 30 locations around the world. The non-profit organization seeks to offer learning experiences designed to match the academic and personal goals of students like Marino.

“No matter what school a student comes from, cultural competency and seeing the world anew is the goal,” said Hope McClelland-Young, Associate Vice President for College Relations & Advising at IES Abroad. “We have seen Lehigh students thrive on our programs, and it’s been exciting to watch the number of Lehigh students attending our programs grow.”

A Long-Standing Partnership

A student talking to a person at the front desk at the IES Abroad Milan Center
IES Abroad Milan has opened a new cutting-edge center in Milan featuring more than a dozen classrooms, a 280-seat auditorium, an onsite gym, and many study spaces.

Lehigh offers a large variety of education abroad experiences, including study abroad, the Global Citizenship Program, and the Iacocca International Internship Program. Lehigh had 759 student abroad experiences in 40 countries during the 2022-23 academic year, some of which were facilitated through partner organizations like IES Abroad.

These providers are usually non-profit organizations with study centers around the world, or U.S.-based universities with campuses in other countries. They provide overseas locations, co-curricular experiential learning opportunities, and student support with visas, housing, and navigating host country institutions. Lehigh has various sets of criteria for selecting these partners, including level of student support; robust health, safety and risk management plans; curriculum that matches with Lehigh standards for credit transfer; and adherence to Forum on Education Abroad standards.

“Lehigh is committed to providing high quality international academic opportunities to all Lehigh students of all academic and financial backgrounds, and IES Abroad is one of our strongest and most important partners in providing that access,” said Cheryl Matherly, Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs at Lehigh’s Office of International Affairs.

IES Abroad works with a consortium of more than 275 colleges and universities, which helps facilitate students’ participation in the organization’s study abroad programming. Lehigh has been a consortium member since 2008, allowing the university to provide its students with study abroad and internship opportunities in incredible destinations around the world.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the valued partners who make up our consortium,” McClelland-Young said.

IES Abroad also offers millions of dollars in scholarships and aid to students, and recently announced the creation of a new financial aid initiative called the High-Impact Aid Commitment, which will vastly expand the organization’s reach and funds available for underrepresented, high-need, and Pell Grant-eligible students.

Tailored to Student Interests

Professor Una Bergin teaching a Dutch language course at the IES Abroad Amsterdam Center
Professor Una Bergin teaching a Dutch language course at the IES Abroad Amsterdam Center.

The most popular IES Abroad locations for Lehigh students are Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Milan, and Vienna, according to Abby Barić, Director of Communications & Outreach for IES Abroad. Lehigh has also worked with IES Abroad on faculty development opportunities, and have developed 18 customized study abroad programs specifically for Lehigh since 2013.

“What’s amazing about IES is we are really able to tailor the course offerings based on the student’s interests,” said Michela Fontana, Faculty Coordinator at IES Abroad Milan. “We have pre-registration systems that work really well, so students can let us know in advance what classes and topics they’re interested in, and we can get connected with the right faculty and sessions.”

This year, IES Abroad opened a new cutting-edge center in Milan featuring more than a dozen classrooms, a 280-seat auditorium, an onsite gym, and many study spaces. Roberto Andreoni, IES Abroad Milan Center Director, said the facility lets students receive instruction in a familiar environment, while smoothly transitioning and immersing them into the Milan culture.

“We have a long history with Lehigh University, and we love working with Lehigh students and faculty,” Andreoni said. “Lehigh students are wonderful ambassadors for their university while they are learning here, and while we have wonderful students from a variety of institutions, Lehigh students always stand out.”

IES London has also moved into a new center last year, within walking distance of such landmarks as St. Paul’s Cathedral and the British Museum. About 320 students are studying there this semester in programs that range from theater studies, health practice and policy, and full-time internships, according to IES Abroad London Center Director John Ockey.

Getting Out into the Community

A professor talking to students at the Rijksmusem in front of a painting
Professor Wouter van Herwaarden (right) speaking to students at the Rijksmuseum, a renowned art museum in Amsterdam.

In addition to traditional courses, students in the health program are also paired with London-based health companies for community-based learning in a setting similar to an internship. Additionally, they spend the final weeks of their semester shadowing healthcare clinics and hospitals in Jamaica, providing a comparison of health systems in multiple countries.

“We are very focused on getting out of the classroom and giving students experiential learning opportunities,” said David Neita, who teaches the “Social Welfare Policy in the United Kingdom and Jamaica” course for IES London. “Students are out there in the community, learning and observing things. Jamaica becomes the classroom, in that sense.”

Likewise, IES Abroad officials in Amsterdam are committed to integrating their students into the local communities. Courses there are not only offered in the local IES Center, but also in local universities like Vrije Universiteit and Universiteit van Amsterdam, and field trips are offered throughout the city, according to IES Abroad Amsterdam Center Director Chantal Omloo.

For example, the Law & Criminology class offers lessons at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Omloo said. And, for his “Highlights of Dutch Art” course, Professor Wouter van Herwaarden takes his students to the halls of Amsterdam’s renowned Rijksmuseum, where he shares the works of such masters as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, and Frans Hals.

“IES faculty love to get their kids out of the classroom and into the world, because if they’re just having a classroom experience like they could have back home, what’s the point of studying abroad?” Fontana said. “We really push to make the learning very practical, hands-on, and tailored to the city where they are studying.”

With more than 70 years of study abroad experience, IES Abroad has been named Top Study Abroad Organization two years in a row based on student reviews, according to the Go Overseas Community Choice Awards for Study Abroad providers.